CONCERNS have been raised that paramedics in the South West are being taken away from their front-line work to help provide medical cover at private events.

South Western Ambulance Service provides commercial first aid services at a range of events across its area to boost the trust’s income.

However, a member of the public, who did not wish to be named, said this work could put its urgent 999 services under pressure and that the trust was “neglecting” its statutory obligations.

He said: “I read almost monthly now of the severe failings of our local NHS ambulance service, with countless patients left for hours in time critical situations. What I am even more disgusted to hear is that the South Western Ambulance Service now has a dedicated events team, who tout for business to provide medical cover at local private events.

“I have recently become aware of them taking on the Bournemouth Air Festival this year, where scores of their front-line paramedics will be taken to cover a private event.

“It is one of the worst performing ambulance trusts in the country, and now they seem keen to expand into private functions, neglecting further their statutory obligation.”

The trust works with charity volunteers to cover medical cover at events, work which provides income to the trust.

Staff employed at these are done so under separate contracts. A move the trust says means its “core” resources are not reduced.”

A spokesman for the service said: “Whilst we will always strive to reach our patients in a timely manner, we must prioritise those with the greatest clinical need. We are demonstrating an ongoing improvement in our response times for our most critical and seriously ill patients, and we are working exceptionally hard to deliver the highest quality response to all patients.

“Organisers often have a statutory responsibility to have an NHS ambulance service presence at their events, meaning they cannot run their event legally without one. We cover many events in partnership with St John Ambulance and Red Cross volunteers. Our staff who attend these events do so under separate contracts, so our core resources are not depleted.